Friday, March 31, 2023

Book Review: South by Babak Lakghomi

 In an unnamed totalitarian nation, freelance journalist B is travelling through a dilapidated desert. His mission is to report on the worker's strike on an oil rig located at the southern part of the country. He believes that the journey will provide him an answer to everything, including his troubled past. Inspite of a warning from the people of wind to beware of the South winds, he reaches the oil rig and tries to interview the workers. But little does he anticipate the whirlpool of manipulation and censorship that drowns him into depths of desperation. 

South, a short novel written by Iranian-American writer Babak Lakghomi, is a strong depiction of our present political landscape that is deceptive and manipulative. Its protagonist B is a man who is punished for his attempt to look back into his past. The state that ruthlessly suppress even a personal quest that may go against its interest stands tall as the unnamed antagonist, who never appears, but permeates every word of the story. 

The story is told in the first person narrative of B. There are also some snippets from The Book of The Winds, a book B brought with him on the journey, some pages of his father's diary and his own notes (some of which he himself never remember writing). It is evident that B is a classic unreliable narrator and struggles to maintain clarity to his line of thoughts. He faces adversities in a defeatist mood and springs back into his own cocoon every time he faces a defeat. 

The narrative structure of the novel is also non linear, hallucinatory and chaotic. We find ourselves to be an unanchored sailboat in a stormy sea while reading it. There is a certain Kafkaesque element to the plight of B, where whatever he does fails to impact the plot in any significant way and the more he struggles, the more he is pulled into the epicenter of the whirlpool. Background of the desert people, their belief in the people of wind and their indecipherable dialects adds to the turbulence of the plot. 

South is a haunting tale of systematic suppression and manipulation of an individual by a tyrannical regime. It refuses to resolve any questions that it puts forward. It very convincingly portray the inability to make comprehend a subjective truth when the corrupt system itself is working to topple the very notion of it. 

This book is an advance reading copy received from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. 

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